Friday, August 26, 2016

Chocolate-hazelnut spread (a homemade, far better Nutella)

I could say a lot of things about this spread. I could give you a myriad of reasons why you should make it. Do I really need to, though? Is there anyone in this world, except of course those who are allergic to nuts, who doesn’t want to eat this? Who doesn’t drool at the mere mention of chocolate-hazelnut paste?

I won’t say Nutella because this is not Nutella. Far from it; and I mean this in a good way. Nutella, as much as I like it, is not the best representation of a hazelnut spread. It only contains 13% hazelnuts and tonnes of sugar. I want the real thing. I want something that has the flavor, the texture of hazelnuts and chocolate, and I want real ingredients. Good quality ingredients.

What are those? Hazelnuts and almonds, milk and honey, sea salt, three types of chocolate. Best quality and not the cheap stuff. Believe me, it makes all the difference, and by omitting the sugar from the list of ingredients, you really get to taste the nuts and the chocolate, and it’s truly fantastic.

This spread is addictive, as much as the regular Nutella is, if not more, and the texture, for me, is far better. It may not have that super smooth texture of Nutella but it is airy, somewhat like a very dense mousse, it is slightly granular (which greatly depends on the power of your food processor) and it melts in the mouth, it doesn’t stick to it or to the back of your throat like Nutella does; you know the feeling. This one coats your tongue delicately and dissolves in the mouth, with those tiny granular nuts clinging just a little bit longer, giving you a glorious aftertaste of hazelnuts.

It’s not too dense when refrigerated and it’s perfectly spreadable; on your bread, your croissant, your cake. It’s soft and creamy and particularly fluffy because when you beat it in the food processor, a lot of air is incorporated into it which makes it mousse-like. You will notice that when you finish preparing it, it will be runny, something which shouldn’t worry you at all because firstly this means that you can easily sieve it if you want a completely smooth paste, and secondly because after a few hours in the fridge, it firms up to the ideal consistency.

I followed the recipe by monsieur Lebovitz who in turn adapted it from the book Encyclopédie du chocolat. I have to say, the first time I made this, I wasn’t quite sure the almonds really make a difference, but I love the slight hint of them in the background. It enhances the flavor profile of the spread. Or it could be because I love Greek chocolates so much. In case you don’t know, chocolate bars with whole or ground pieces of almonds are among the most popular and beloved chocolate bars in Greece.

The flavor of this paste is undeniably nutty and chocolaty without being too sweet. It has the full flavor of the chocolate and of the nuts that have been toasted in the oven for maximum flavor. The milk chocolate adds sweetness whereas the two dark chocolates with different cocoa percentages add depth of flavor and balance that sweetness, while the ever-so-slightly salty undertone enlivens the chocolate and intensifies its flavor even more.

Please tell me you’re gonna make this as soon as possible?!

Chocolate-hazelnut spread/paste (a homemade, far better Nutella)
Barely adapted from David Lebovitz

Use the best quality chocolate you can afford, it makes a difference. Also, what really makes a difference is the freshness and quality of the nuts. (Read here some tips on how to store nuts properly).

The best way for me to enjoy this homemade Nutella is to spread it on my favorite dark, mutligrain bread and sprinkle it with sea salt flakes. Perfection! I have more ways to use it, in several recipes, one of which is perfect for when the weather is warm and which I will share with you soon.

*Update: Many of you asked me about the powdered milk (which, incidentally, is not the same as the one babies drink). Powdered milk is commonly used in pastry-making instead of fresh milk because it binds recipes better (for example ice creams, various creams/puddings, etc.). I haven’t tried this recipe without it but I suspect that by omitting it you will end up with a somewhat less firm spread.
Don’t substitute the milk powder with any other ingredient. If you cannot find it, omit it from the recipe altogether.

Yield: 4 medium-sized jars (net weight of the spread: 900g)

160 g unsalted whole hazelnuts
40 g unsalted blanched almonds
400 g fresh whole milk
60 g powdered whole milk (see note/update above*)
40 g runny, clear honey (mild-flavored so it doesn’t affect the flavor of the spread)
A pinch of sea salt
140 g good quality milk chocolate (at least 33% cocoa solids), cut into small pieces
100 g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), cut into small pieces
70 g good quality dark chocolate (55-60% cocoa solids), cut into small pieces

Special equipment: rimmed baking sheet, large food processor (the stronger the better), glass jars with lids

Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Add the hazelnuts and the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, keeping them separate, and place them on the middle rack of the preheated the oven. Toast them for 7-8 minutes (stirring them every a couple of times) or until they are fragrant and have taken on a golden color. Be careful not to burn them. Nuts catch easily.

In the meantime, add the fresh and powdered milk, the honey and the salt in a small saucepan and warm them, stirring to dissolve the ingredients. When it starts to boil, remove from the heat and put on the lid.

Place all three kinds of chocolates in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bain marie) and keep stirring until they are melted. The bottom of the bowl must not come in contact with the simmering water. Once the chocolate is smooth, remove bowl from the top of the pan and set aside.

When the nuts are toasted, remove them from the oven. Transfer the hazelnuts in the center of a large, clean tea towel, fold up the ends of the tea towel to create a pouch and rub the hazelnuts with your hands to remove the skin. It’s okay to be rough when doing this. Not all skins will come off, but most of them will.

Transfer the hazelnuts to your food processor (leaving the skins behind in the tea towel) together with the almonds and grind them until they liquefy. This will take approximately 15 minutes in total (my processor is a strong one). As you are processing the nuts, you will notice their transformation from coarsely ground, to liquid form with small specks of nuts. Take a look at the photos. As I mentioned in the main body of my post, how finely ground your nuts will get, solely depends on how strong your food processor is. While you’re processing the nuts, stop from time to time to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

When they reach the desired consistency, add the melted chocolates and process to incorporate and to create a smooth mixture, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl when needed. Then, add the warm milk mixture and process until everything is well combined and you have a light, smooth mixture. It will be liquid, not paste-like.
At this point, you can sieve the mixture to get rid of the small pieces of toasted nuts and have a smooth spread, but I never do this because I enjoy their slightly granular texture.

Transfer the mixture into sterilized glass jars and put on the lids. (See here how to sterilize glass jars).
Place the paste in the refrigerator. It will take about 8 hours to properly firm up.

The paste/spread can be kept in the fridge for 1½ to 2 weeks at most.


  1. I will definitely be making this soon, and will report back! While I like Nutella, there is a waxy/oily quality that I know won't be there in your version.

    1. Hi David! No, there's none of that in this version. It's truly amazing. Please let me know how you liked it :) Have a nice weekend!

  2. It has been a high-calorie recipe. Still, I like it. Congratulations.